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Big Fish

Returning home to Alabama from France, William Bloom (Billy Crudup) has an awkward relationship with his dying father, a charming traveling salesman. Edward (Albert Finney) is a bigger-than-life character given to wildly improbable tales — the sort of charismatic storyteller who naturally draws all of the attention in the room, even at his own son's wedding reception. William, a writer, is long past tired of his dad's whoppers and hasn't spoken to him in three years, communicating with him through his mother, Sandra (Jessica Lange). But with Edward's cancer rapidly progressing, William realizes that he has only a short window of time left in which to really get to know a man who he feels has fictionalized his entire life story — he wants the truth behind the tales, so William returns to his dad's bedside with his very pregnant wife (Marion Cotillard) and attempts to unravel the mystery. Of his father's life, "the best I can do is tell it to you the way he told me," William says in voice-over. "It doesn't always make sense, and most of it never happened. But that's what kind of story this is." Seen through flashback and memory, young Edward (Ewan McGregor) has an extraordinary series of adventures — starting out as a small-town sports hero and volunteer fireman, then encountering a giant named Karl (Matthew McGrory) and joining a traveling circus run by an ever-so-slightly sinister ringmaster (Danny DeVito). Edward meets, woos, and wins the love of his life, Sandra (played in flashback by Alison Lohman), encounters the residents of an eerily comforting hamlet called Spectre, gets an early peek at his own death by gazing into the milky eye of the town witch (Helena Bonham Carter), goes to war and escapes capture behind enemy lines with the help of beautiful conjoined twins, and has an epic battle with an enormous fish. The telling of these tales is pure Burton, beautifully rendered — with the assistance of production designer Dennis Gassner, responsible for the beauty of such disparate films as Field of Dreams, Barton Fink, and O Brother, Where Art Thou? plus the amazing cinematography of Philippe Rousselot — and redolent with surreal charm. Columbia TriStar's special edition DVD of Big Fish offers an rich, colorful anamorphic transfer (1.85:1). The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is superb, showcasing Danny Elfman's complex, imaginative score and offering some occasional audio surprises, like the loud "boom" of the circus cannon and the deep echo of Karl's voice when he first emerges from his cave. There's a solid collection of extras on board, including a commentary track with director Tim Burton and seven behind-the-scenes featurettes, covering everything from the writing of the story through the creation of the special effects, plus a trivia quiz, a branching menu option (allowing the viewer to jump to featurettes during the film), an Easter egg, and theatrical trailers. Keep-case.
—Dawn Taylor

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